Marc Shmuger is out at EuropaCorp and will step down as CEO of the French-based production and distribution company at the end of the year.
Company founder Luc Besson will take over as interim CEO starting Jan. 1.
Besson and Shmuger were both present Friday at a meeting in Paris to announce the news, with the pair emphasizing that Shmuger will stay on as a senior advisor as well as producer of the upcoming feature Anna, starring Helen Mirren.
Shmuger joined the French mini-major in 2016, replacing Christophe Lambert, on a renewable temporary contract that was last extended in September for three months through the end of the year.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Shmuger said that he had informed the board in June that he would not renew his short-term contract, though the information was not made public at the time.
Shmuger said that he made the decision to depart before the release of Besson’s sci-fi epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which was a box-office disappointment for the company.
“In June, I made it very clear that this was the final extension of the short-term extensions I had been agreeing to. So that’s how this date came about and when this date came about,” Shmuger said regarding his Dec. 31 departure.
“Marc has been a friend for over 20 years and is one of my closest advisors. He came into EuropaCorp at a crucial time for the company and brought much needed leadership, experience, industry knowledge and vision — all of which he provided to me personally and to the company in extraordinary ways for which I’ll be forever grateful,” Besson said in a statement.
Shmuger is the second major executive exit at EuropaCorp this year, following deputy CEO Edouard de Vesinne, who left in September, and comes as the company faces financial difficulties following the disappointment that was Valerian. The film grossed $185 million worldwide on a budget of around $200 million.
EuropaCorp posted record losses of $135 million during the last financial year and recently posted a loss warning. Its stock price has also taken a beating, closing at €1.43 ($1.67) Friday afternoon, down from (€4.19) $4.89 ahead of the film’s release.
Shmuger emphasized that his role was to shore up the financial footing of the company, including bringing in equity, restructuring the company’s debt and reducing overhead. “So much of what I’ve been doing over the nearly two years — which is extremely longer than the original basis that I signed on for — was dealing with the financial issues of the company,” he said. “I’ve done that successfully enough that the company has weathered the underperformance of Valerian.”
The pic was Besson’s passion project, in the works long before Shmuger joined the team. Shmuger focused on shoring up the company’s financial assets with the sale of non-core assets such as the company’s French theater chain as well as restructuring debt and raising new equity.
He also is credited with the U.S. distribution deal with STX after the bankruptcy of Relativity effectively shelved the EuropaCorp and Relativity joint venture RED.
The company will now pin its financial hopes on the success of the thriller Anna, which Besson is shooting through February. Shumger secured the financing and distribution for the production.
“It’s the most important project going on at the company,” he said. “We’re incredibly excited about it. It’s Luc returning to do the espionage-action thriller that we all love and that have been the greatest successes of the company.”
Nov. 11, 10:33 a.m. This post has been updated to reflect Shmuger’s comments to THR.